By Jeremy Wall
On Saturday, September 12th, Floyd Mayweather Jr fought in what he claims is the final fight of his storied career when he defeated Andre Berto by unanimous decision. Mayweather was heavily criticized for selecting Berto as his final opponent, as many in boxing felt that Berto was past his prime and chosen to give Mayweather an easy win on his way out. It headlined a four bout pay per view and took place in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, which has been Mayweather’s home for his final twelve fights.
The fight went exactly as most people anticipated. You practically could have guessed the entire fight ahead of time. Mayweather dominated the bout, winning the decision on scorecards of 120-108, 118-110, and 117-111. If anything, the two judges that gave Berto two and three rounds respectively were being generous as Berto showed little by way of skill and was clearly outclassed by a much more talented opponent.
It was clear from round one that Berto had little chance. He barely touched Mayweather throughout the fight and in the twelfth round was actually hurt by a combination of punches by Mayweather in the corner. The two began talking trash late in the fight, to the point where the talk was more intense than the fight and referee Kenny Bayless had to separate the fighters and issue each of them a warning for stalling the fight with all the trash talk.
According to ShoStats, Mayweather connected on 232 of 410 punches for a 56-percent compared to Berto, who connected on 83 of 495 punches for 16-percent. Those stats tell the story of the fight.
The real story of this fight was outside the ring and that story has many chapters. First there was the lack of box office drawing power. Selecting Berto as Mayweather’s opponent was an obvious miscalculation. Multiple major news outlets were reporting in the days leading to the fight that the MGM Grand had at least 2,100 tickets still available.
The fight didn’t sell out. Attendance was 13,395 with the arena scaled for 14,500. StubHub, an online ticket resale site owned by eBay, had cheap seats available the final week of the fight for just over $160. That was down from over $300 a week earlier. Those tickets went back up to $300 the day of the fight, as all the last minute travelers came to town.
I was in Las Vegas all week for both UFC 191 and Mayweather vs. Berto. I decided not to attend Mayweather vs. Berto at the MGM Grand, partially because the ticket prices were too high for this fight (also, I’m Canadian and the exchange rate is abysmal right now, making the fight substantially more expensive) and also because I was exhausted from attending the Boxing Fan Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center all day.
Instead, I stayed in my hotel room and ordered the fight on pay per view online. This was the first pay per view offered online by Showtime. The retail was $60. The pay per view was headlined by CBS and anyone who ordered received three months free of CBS All Access, which is the network’s streaming service and normally costs $5.99 a month. The only issue I had with the online stream was at the start of the show when the stream went dead. I called CBS’ hotline and they gave me an alternate link where I could watch. The stream was clear with little buffering, which was a positive since I was on hotel wifi.
The problem with Berto as an opponent is that no one believed Berto had a chance at defeating Mayweather. Berto went into the fight at +600 and Mayweather at -1800, which was actually better odds than Berto was given days earlier because of a rush of late underdog bettors throwing some money on Berto in the hopes of an unlikely payday.
Part of the attraction of watching a Mayweather fight is the chance at seeing him get his mouth shut. He’s the greatest drawing heel of all time. I see Mayweather as being like The Sheik, a classic wrestling heel who drew well in Toronto and Detroit by never losing with the idea that each new opponent could finally be the one to beat him. The Sheik drew a lot of money for that era from people who were only paying to see him lose.
To some degree, I think the same thing happened when Mayweather beat Pacquiao. Although boxing insiders knew Pacquiao stood little chance of beating Mayweather (particularly anyone who knew about Pacquiao’s injury ahead of time), most of the people watching the fight were only casually interested in boxing and probably never bought a boxing pay per view before. Those casual fans all thought Pacquiao was going to be the man to beat the man. He wasn’t. Once Pacquiao lost handily, those fans were probably left thinking, if Pacquiao can’t beat Mayweather, then no one can.
So, in order to draw money Floyd’s supposed final opponent would have be someone that people actually believed had a chance at winning. Someone who would present Floyd with a challenge. Berto wasn’t that someone. Although a former WBC and IBF Cruiserweight champion and the current interim WBA champion, Berto was a 32-year-old who had lost three of his last six fights dating back to a bout against Victor Ortiz in April 2011. He had tested positive for norandrosterone in 2012 and suffered a shoulder injury in a loss to Jesus Soto Karass in July 2013 that kept Berto out of action for 14 months.
Mayweather improved to 49-0 with 26 knockouts. Berto fell to 30-4 with 23 knockouts.
If this was indeed Floyd’s final fight, it was a missed opportunity for Al Haymon, who de facto controls Mayweather Promotions and is also the de facto promoter of Premier Boxing Champions. Even if Haymon and company stayed with Berto as Floyd’s final opponent, the hype for the fight was poor. PBC has a ton of network television time and ought to have used some of that time to give Berto a fight on NBC to showcase his skills and personality in order to build Berto up in front of as large an audience as possible. Instead, Berto’s only fight on PBC this year was against Josesito Lopez in the co-main event of PBC’s debut on Spike in March.
Berto was barely part of the pre-match hype. Much of the talking for Berto strangely came from Mayweather himself, who in response to people criticizing Berto kept saying that anything can happen in a fight and not to count Berto out. A bit was made out of Berto coming from a fighting family. His father Dieuseul was an MMA fighter back when MMA was better known as NHB, racking up a 0-3 record that included a loss at UFC 10 in July 1996. Some footage of Berto competing in minor league MMA was even used on the pay per view broadcast. No mention was made of Dieuseul’s history as a pro wrestler (if there was, I didn’t notice, which was surprising since Mauro Ranallo did play-by-play for the broadcast). Also, I heard no mention of Andre’s brother Edson, who is an MMA fighter with a 17-12-1 record having competed in Bellator, Strikeforce, and EliteXC.
Berto was obviously the wrong opponent, both from a skill and from a box office standpoint. Some people have suggested that Mayweather ought to have faced Gennady Golovkin, who holds multiple titles at middleweight. Golovkin had said publicly that he would be willing to come down in weight to face Mayweather. Golovkin probably would be the biggest challenge for Mayweather, but anyone who thinks Mayweather vs. Golovkin could have happened is in a fantasy world. Mayweather fights for Al Haymon and Golovkin fights for HBO. Even if Golovkin fought for Haymon, Mayweather still isn’t going to fight someone so much larger than him and someone who would go into the fight as a favourite and ruin Mayweather’s perfect record.
There were, however, other fighters that are actually signed to Al Haymon that would have made for better opponents than Berto. This list includes (but is not limited to) Keith Thurman, Amir Khan, Danny Garcia, and Shawn Porter. A lot of people feel Thurman is the next major star at welterweight and he might have even been favoured to beat Mayweather. If Mayweather was looking to put someone over on his way out, Thurman would be the best bet. Talks with Khan also occurred and Khan had been rumoured to face Mayweather many times over the last few years. When Khan beat Chris Algieri on Spike a few months ago, the way that fight was promoted was that it was leading Khan to a pay per view bout against Mayweather. That was still strange because of the idea at the time was that Khan would be Mayweather’s final opponent, one would think they would want Khan competing on NBC instead of Spike to get as many people watching him as possible.
If I had to choose an opponent for Mayweather’s 49th fight, I would have selected Shawn Porter. Porter is the anti-Mayweather, a friendly, likeable fighter from a Christian background. Like Mayweather, Porter is trained by his own father. Unlike Mayweather, Porter isn’t cocky, arrogant, and has a clean personal history.
I met Porter and his father Kenny at the Boxing Fan Expo earlier in the day. After talking with the two of them for a minute, I remain more convinced that he would have been the ideal challenger for Mayweather assuming that Mayweather was not looking for too much of a challenge. Mayweather would probably defeat Porter, but the loss would give Porter’s career a boost and the fight would have drawn better at the box office than Mayweather’s fight against Berto.
If I could write the story, I would have Mayweather beat Porter for Mayweather’s 49th win, then return to beat Pacquiao to open Las Vegas Arena next year to earn win 50 and break Rocky Marciano’s record. After, I would have Mayweather put Thurman over in his retirement fight and retire at 50-1 while in the process making Thurman into a new star.
It’s not that I believe any of that will happen, but that is the scenario that I picture would make the most money and be the most useful for PBC’s long-term fortunes after Mayweather is gone. In my little story, you could change a few of the components, like substituting Khan for Porter, or Danny Garcia for Thurman, and it would still work better than a fight against Berto.
It was clear that Mayweather handpicked Berto as his final opponent because Berto stood little chance. Berto’s last fight on Spike took place before the Mayweather-Pacquiao bout and any talk at that point that Berto would be Mayweather’s next foe would have sounded ludicrous. When Mayweather told the media a few months ago that he was considering fighting either Berto or journeyman Karim Mayfield, no one believed him. And then Berto was announced. I think it is probably the case that Mayweather lives in a bubble world surrounded by yes men and any idea that he pitches is going to be responded to positively. At this point Mayweather has made so much money for Al Haymon that I figure Haymon just allows Mayweather to do what he wants now with little feedback.
The fight will probably draw poorly on pay per view. The only question is what constitutes poorly for a Floyd Mayweather fight at this point. There might be enough interest in Mayweather’s name alone to carry the fight to a profitable buy rate. Alternatively, the negative press and lack of hype could flatten the buy rate to the lowest since Mayweather signed his lucrative contract with CBS Showtime, a contract that allowed Floyd to earn more than $400 million. $250 million was for the Pacquiao fight alone. He earned another $32 million for this bout.
Even though Berto lost nearly every round and looked out of his league against Mayweather, he was all smiles in his post-fight interview. That is probably because he earned a $4 million payday for the loss.
The second story outside the ring is the accusation that Mayweather misused an IV leading into his fight against Pacquiao. The story was broken on SB Nation by long-time boxing scribe Thomas Hauser, who clearly enunciated the details of what Mayweather did and didn’t do and the poor response from the USADA, who overlooked drug testing for that bout (the article is at http://www.sbnation.com/longform/2015/9/9/9271811/can-boxing-trust-usada). A ton has been said and even more has been written about Hauser’s contentious article, which made Mayweather look as if he cheated going into the Pacquiao bout. Mayweather has been a vocal proponent of serious drug testing in boxing, so the article was damaging to his reputation as a clean fighter. Hauser also published the piece at the most inopportune time for Mayweather, as the article became part of the pre-fight hype and may have helped contribute to the fight’s poor box office performance (although the fight was probably going to draw poorly anyway).
Mayweather was quizzed heavily about the IV issue and the lack of interest in the Berto fight in a television interview with journalist Charles Payne of Fox News. The interview is worth watching as it is one of the few times someone has bothered to ask Floyd questions that aren’t merely public relations (the interview is about seven minutes long and is at http://www.foxbusiness.com/business-leaders/2015/09/11/inside-ring-with-floyd-mayweather-jr/).
The third story is the one that people are going to be talking about for months and that is whether Mayweather stays retired. After beating Berto, Mayweather continued to insist that it was his last fight and that he was now retired. His retirement feels like a pro wrestling career match stipulation that no one believes and is adhered to for a few months at most until a lucrative match draws the wrestler out of fake retirement.
"You got to know when to hang it up and it's time for me to hang it up. I'm not going to be doing this when I'm 40 years old,” said Mayweather in his post-fight interview.
If Mayweather does come back, what will that lucrative match be? He’s not going to put anyone over on his way out because his mentality is all about winning, even at this stage of his career. The obvious fight is a rematch with Pacquiao to open the new Las Vegas Arena next summer. The fight would take place nearly a year after the original bout and the story would be that Pacquiao is going into the fight without a serious injury and theoretically would stand a better chance of beating Mayweather. Mayweather is also a free agent now that his CBS Showtime contract has expired with the Berto match and could feasibly go across the street to HBO, who is Pacquiao’s broadcaster.
The Pacquiao fight is really the only fight for Mayweather at this point. There are other matches with guys like Golovkin, Khan, Thurman, etc, that fans would like to see, but those are never going to happen. Mayweather will probably beat a healthy Pacquiao if they fight a second time. With the new arena opening in Las Vegas, I imagine Mayweather will get tremendous money offers to open it with a fight against Pacquiao.
And if Mayweather does sign to fight Pacquiao again and then claims he will retire after that, it would be far more believable.
No one believes that Mayweather is going to remain retired. But no one believed that Berto was going to be Mayweather’s next opponent, even though Mayweather told everyone as much. Maybe Mayweather really is serious about being retired. If he is, in his post-fight interview he said that he wants to focus on Mayweather Promotions and helping establishing his young fighters into new stars. I could see Mayweather as the public face of PBC, like in the Dana White role, with the difference being that Mayweather is only a public face and unlike Dana would do little actual work behind the scenes.
The pay per view undercard included three additional bouts besides the Mayweather-Berto main event. They were all excellent fights. It was clear that Showtime loaded the show with a strong undercard in order to make up for the weak main event.
The pay per view broadcast opened with Jonathan Oquendo beating Jhonny Gonzalez by majority decision at super featherweight. Scorecards were 98-92, 95-93, and 94-94. It was a close fight and a good action bout. Oquendo, 32, was knocked down in round one and Gonzalez, 33, was knocked down in round two. Oquendo improved to 26-4 with 16 knockouts and Gonzalez fell to 58-10 (49 KOs).
In the second bout of the night, Badou Jack, 31, upset George Groves, 27, by split-decision to retain the WBC Super Middleweight title. This was another exciting fight. Scores were 116-111 and 115-112 for Jack and 113-114 for Groves. Groves suffered a flash knockdown in the first round, but came back to control many of the middle rounds. This fight could have gone either way. There weren’t many people in the arena yet, but there were a large British contingent in Las Vegas to see their countryman Groves and they were vocal in their support.
It was a disappointing result for Groves, because a win could have led to a unification bout with James DeGale, who holds the IBF Middleweight title. Both are British fighters, with DeGale being the first British fighter to win both an Olympic gold medal and a major professional title. Groves is the established star in Britain and DeGale is the rising star. That fight wouldn’t mean much in the US, but if PBC wanted to debut in Britain, they could do a lot worse than headlining with Groves-DeGale for two middleweight belts.
Badou Jack spoiled that idea, though, just as he spoiled Anthony Dirrell’s undefeated record when he upset Dirrell for the WBC title on a PBC show in April. Jack put together two underdog wins in a row, so he’ll probably be taken more seriously as a fighter from now on. Jack could fight either Dirrell or Groves in rematches. I would think Groves would get a rematch first, especially since the initial idea was for Jack vs. Groves to headline a Showtime broadcast before it was moved to the Mayweather pay per view undercard.
With the win, Jack improved to 20-1 with 12 knockouts and Groves fell to 21-3 with 16 knockouts.
The third bout of the evening was a barn burner with Roman Martinez going to a split draw with Orlando Salido. It was an all action fight with both fighters pummeling one another from bell to bell. With the draw, Martinez retained the WBO Super Featherweight title. Scores were 115-113 Salido, 115-113 Martinez, and a 114-114 draw.
Martinez, 32, and Salido, 34, combined for 1,728 punches thrown over twelve rounds. Salido connected on 285 of 1,037 punches for 27-percent and Martinez connected on 189 of 691 punches also for 27-percent. A draw was fair, although many watching the fight scored it for Saldio based on his tremendous level of activity.
"I threw a lot of punches. There will definitely be a third fight," Martinez said in his post-fight interview. The fight was a rematch of a bout between the two that took place on April 11th in San Juan, which Martinez won by unanimous decision to capture the WBO title.
Martinez fell to 29-2-3 with 17 knockouts and Salido fell to 42-13-3 with 29 knockouts.
The show also featured a number of dark matches that took place before the pay per view broadcast. A couple of these fights aired on the preshow for the online pay per view. Highlights among these fights include Vanes Martirosyan (36-2-1, 21 KOs, 29 yo), beat Ishe Smith (27-8, 12 KOs, 37 yo) by unanimous decision at super welterweight. Martirosyan was able to knock Smith down in the third and eighth rounds, although calling the one in the third round a knockdown was generous. Also, Gervonta Davis (12-0, 11 KO, 20 yo) knocked out Recky Dulay (8-2, 5 KO, 21 yo) in the first round at super middleweight. Davis is considered one of the top young prospects in Mayweather’s gym and even though Dulay was a step up in quality of competition for him, Davis put him away quickly. Davis is a fighter to keep an eye on.
Other notable prospects to pick up wins on the undercard were middleweight Christopher Pearson (13-0, 10 KOs, 24 yo) and super-middleweight Ronald Gavril (14-1, 10 KOs, 29 yo).
The week prior to Mayweather-Berto there was a tremendous amount of boxing on TV. PBC had a card on CBS last weekend, plus a show in Toronto on Spike TV on Friday night that went against a Top Rank Show on TruTV. There was also an NBC show on Saturday afternoon that was used as a last minute build for the Mayweather pay per view. I didn't have a chance to watch that show, but it was headlined by Peter Quillin (32-0-1, 22 KOs) knocking out Michael Zerafa (17-2, 9 KOs) in the fifth round. The fight sets up a bout between WBA Middleweight regular champion Daniel Jacobs and Quillin for that title.
Also on NBC Saturday afternoon, 25-year-old Jermall Charlo (22-0, 17 KOs) beat 42-year-old Cornelius “K9” Bundrage (34-6, 19 KOs) to win the IBF Super Welterweight title. Charlo knocked Bundrage down in rounds one, two, and three for four knockdowns in total, finishing the fight with a third round knockout.
Note: In Saturday’s column I mentioned that Adonis Stevenson was probably the biggest boxing star to fight in Toronto. I forgot about the time Muhammad Ali faced George Chuvalo at Maple Leafs Gardens on March 29th, 1966. Ali was defending his Heavyweight title and beat Chuvalo, a tough Canadian from Toronto, by unanimous decision after fifteen rounds. There will probably never be a bigger boxing star than Ali, so he will remain the biggest name boxer to ever fight in Toronto. But in the last 49 years, there hasn’t been much else and certainly little in the way of big name boxing in Toronto since the new millennium. But if anyone knows of any other major fights in Ontario history, I’m all ears.